'Power on the Land' (1943)

Documentary Short 'Power on the Land' - The Story of the Mechanisation of British Farming' (1943). Number 93 of a series of wartime independent documentary shorts commissioned by the British Council during 1942-1944.

590' ft. 16mm. IB Technicolor print. Cinematography by Geoffrey Unsworth, directed by Ralph Keene, music by Hubert Clifford. A Rayldon Production with Verity Films. Narrated by Freddy Grisewood.

This latest small restoration project was of a rusty reel of film found threaded into an ancient Gaumont-British 'L516' 1940's sound projector in a local charity shop.

The defunct projector had been used as a display item for years and unfortunately this reel of film laced into the machine had suffered from being left exposed to damp and dust and the elements. The steel reel was rusted all over and the film itself was brittle and fly-blown and distorted where it had been threaded round the metal sprockets and gate of the L516.

Squinting at the grimey black and white film frames under a lens, I could make out a grey optical sound track and the tantalising words '...LAND...' and '...Unsworth...' which immediately sparked my interest. It seemed that this was a complete short film subject and something photographed by Geoffrey Unsworth. But the condition...?

The film needed very careful work first unspooling by hand from the rusty reel. Making sure that none of the dust and mould (from the film edges) was able to abrade the emulsion as it was carefully unwound. A short length of the beginning leader was present which was removed, as was an unrelated coundown leader. This left the beginning of the film which was brittle and distorted with several torn perforations. A short length of single-perforated black spacer was joined to the first frame of the film proper and attatched to a core on the flatbed. The film fortunately was not shrunken and a regular tape joiner was used. This allowed the film to be very slowly taken up with a clean Selvyts cloth held very loosely between forefinger and thumb barely touching the sides of the film as it was inched past. Constantly renewing and turning the cloth as it became soiled with dust from the film base and emulsion sides.

Because the film had been tightly wound on the reel, after the first few turns it fortunately became less soiled and it could be seen that the mould on the film sides had not penetrated to the affect the image or sound track. Also the print could be seen to be IB Technicolor with a grey optical track. However the entire film had a layer of gritty thick dust and accumulation from the atmosphere. At the end of the film the tail leader was discarded and single perforated black spacer was joined. The rusty reel was thrown out and the new tail attatched to a core on the flatbed. Now the film was slowly and gradually rewound holding the Selvyts cloth as before, inching the film between the cloth constantly turning the cloth to a clean area very gradually removing the worst of the accumulated soiling and dust.

Gradually, after several painstaking traverses back and forth as described, the cloth was then held with slightly increasing pressure between forefinger and thumb as the residue deposited on the cloth became less. The speed of winding was increased as the possibility of scratching and damaging the image was diminished by the removal of the dust. Finaly a film cleaning lubricant could be applied to the cloth that cleaned the last of the grime and allowed the print to become less brittle. White leader as added to the tail and start. It was possible to view the undamaged part of the print on the Steenbeck and the quality of the image and soundtrack could be assessed.

In a few hours. once the cleaning lubricant had evaporated from the print, the broken perforations and tears at the beginning of the print were repaired. I decided not to use Perfix perforation repair tape as the torn perforations were mostly single ones and by using clear tape and scissors and the CIR tape joiner I was able to repair and reform the perfs both on the base side and emulsion side without discarding any film frames. Where the film perforations had been wrapped round the sprockets of the L516 this had caused distortion and these areas I cut away with scissors. These perforations were reformed using the CIR joiner and clear splicing tape. The tape was applied to cover the least part of the picture area and the renewed perforations will become stronger and harder in time as the tape bonds with the film base.

Here is a web video of the cleaned and repaired film: 'Power on the Land'

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